Sunday, 15 September 2019

Remembering 'The Flintstones'

SWT single deck AEC Regent V No. 34 pictured when new in 1959. 
These buses had seats for just 37 passengers.

When, in March 1952, South Wales Transport took over the fleet of Llanelly & District Traction, it inherited an interesting, if ageing, bus fleet.

Included were, of course, the double deck trolleybuses which ran on the principal town services in Llanelli and these have been well documented elsewhere.

There was also a fleet of AEC Regal single-deckers, some dating back to the 1930s, with low-height bodywork for use on routes L7 and L8 (Penyfan to Morfa and Machynis) in the Llanelli Docks area which had several bridges with a clearance of only nine feet.

No. 37 emerges from beneath one of the low bridges in the Llanelli docks area, illustrating the
 reason why these vehicles were built.
Clearly, these buses would eventually need replacement but by the mid 1950s SWT's preferred supplier, AEC of Middlesex, had switched single deck bus production for the home market to the Reliance.

This model had a high floor line to accommodate its underfloor engine and therefore was unsuitable for the low-height bodywork need at Llanelli.

SWT therefore opted for a low height single deck body fitted to its then standard double deck chassis, the AEC Regent V. In July 1959 the company took delivery of two unique single-deck vehicles which had the appearance of double deckers which had lost their upper floors!  Their 37 seat bodies were built by Charles H. Roe of Leeds.

The two vehicles were numbered 33 and 34 (TCY 101-102) in the SWT fleet and their light body weight meant that they could show a good turn of speed!

Clearly these vehicles, which became nicknamed 'Flintstones' by some crews, were a success and a further six almost identical buses, numbered 35-40 (279-284 DWN) were delivered in 1963 to replace further former Llanelly & District buses dating from the 1950s.

Three of the single-deck Regent Vs lined up at Llanelli depot. 
Left to right: nos. 39, 35 and 36.
These low-height buses became totally unique and were the only eight of their kind produced,.

It should be remembered that at that time one-man operation of buses in the UK was comparatively rare and so all the Llanelli vehicles ran in service with a driver and a conductor on board.  In 1967 one of them, number 37, was converted to one-man operation as an experiment but it allegedly failed to gain acceptance by the trades unions.

Later, several of the Llanelli routes were converted to conventional single-deck operation as bridges were removed or services rerouted. In consequence certain of the single deck Regents were transferred away to Pontardawe, Ammanford or Brunswick Street (Swansea) depots. In 1970, as part of the nationalization process, all were later given new fleet numbers 209/210 and 255-260 as part of the combined SWT and United Welsh fleets.

The buses remained in the SWT fleet until 1972 after which they were sold to smaller operators and contractors including one which operated in London’s docklands. The first two, however, were retained by SWT as staff buses, painted in blue and yellow liveries.

TCY 102 in use as a staff bus at Gorseinon depot in July 1974.
Sad end: TCY 102 derelict and awaiting the scrap man at Port Talbot depot.  The vehicle alongside is the remains former United Welsh 1952 Bristol  KSW 1203 (HWN 339) which had been in use as a towing vehicle  and which was cannibalised for spare parts for SWT open topper
 500 (WNO 484).
One of these interesting little buses still survives; number 38 has been preserved and is part of the Swansea Bus Museum collection.  
Happy ending: 
38 has been preserved and is seen here at Ravenhill following 
a repaint as part of SWT's 75th Anniversary celebrations in 1989. 
It is now part of the Swansea Bus Museum collection.
Northern Sisters
Contrary to popular belief, the SWT single deck AEC Regent Vs were not the only such vehicles to run in the UK. Two others ran in in the North, as below:

Coal Industry Social Welfare Org.     
MD3RV496       2690 UG    Roe GO5205     B37F   built 1960  

Leeds City Welfare Services     
MD3RV497       8895 UB     Roe GO5154     B20F  built 1960   

AEC Regent V MD3RV 8895 UB 
which was built for the Leeds City Welfare Services. 
(Photo: Omnibus Society)

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